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Timing a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Application to the Arts Council

Places available for Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) or (Exceptional Promise) applications were increased in early 2018 and the route has been made even more attractive for those able to meet the criteria for talent (as opposed to promise) as the period of time for which you are required to spend in the category before applying to settle permanently in the UK has been reduced from five years to three years. You can find out more about the recent changes here. This means that there is no better time to apply for one of the most flexible categories in the immigration rules. But before you rush to make an application immediately, there are some matters to consider when considering the exact timing of your application.

Making a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) Application

Unlike most other immigration applications, the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) application is made in two stages. In some cases it is possible to make the applications together, but in most cases it is better not to. The reason for this is that if the first stage is not successful, you then will not incur the cost of stage two unnecessarily; secondly, it generally means for Entry Clearance applications that your passport is submitted for a shorter length of time and is therefore less disruptive for travel; and, thirdly Stage One can be made anywhere in the world, while stage two requires you to apply from your country of residence/nationality. The only exception to this, where it is better to make stage one and two applications together is where it is possible to switch from your current category in the UK into Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) and you wish to extend your lawful stay while making the application.

What is Stage One and how long does it take?

Stage one is the endorsement application to the Arts Council.

This is the part of the application where you will need to send your reference letters and supporting documents to the Home Office. You can read more about the process here. The length of time that you will need to set aside to prepare this will depend on how busy/flexible both you and your referees are. You will need at least three letters in support of the application, which are written by industry experts, who might be short on time. It is a good idea to give your referees as much notice as possible of what you require and when you will require it. The letters must be written especially for the application, addressing specific questions, and so it is not possible to use a reference you have already obtained for a different purpose. We would advise you to allow at least a month to gather all documents, but if your application is urgent then speak to your referees about your timescales.

The Arts Council states that on receipt of an application, they aim to send their recommendation back to UKVI within 25 days. It is then for UKVI to forward the decision on to the applicant. Decisions are usually sent by email so there is no time wasted waiting for postage. Generally this means that a decision is received within about four to six weeks of the application being submitted.   

As set out above, this part of the application can be made from anywhere in the world and you are not required to submit your passport with the application. This means that if you have an international tour schedule to keep, the application process should not infringe on your plans.

What is Stage Two and how long will it take?

Having received an endorsement from the Arts Council itself does not give you any right to enter or remain in the UK. It is necessary to make the visa application before arriving in the UK. The main requirement for the visa application is that you have been endorsed, but UKVI will also assess other things, such as any negative immigration history or criminal activity, before granting the visa.

The length of time that the application will take depends on where you are when you make your application. You can check processing times here. Most application centres now offer a priority service where they will put your application to the front of the queue or will attempt to process the application in 5 working days. Some centres, though not all, offer a 24 hour processing time. These priority services do come at an additional cost, but if your need to travel is urgent, it may be worth paying.

Is there any Deadline to apply for Stage Two?

The endorsement letter from the Arts Council can be relied upon in a visa application for up to three months. If for any reason you are not able to make the stage two application within three months, you would need to make the endorsement application again.

Is there any deadline to arrive in the UK after Stage Two is successful?

If successful, you will be granted an initial vignette in your passport which is valid for 30 days. This is to allow you to come to the UK and collect your Biometric Residence Permit. If, for any reason, you cannot come to the UK within the 30 days, then it is possible to have this period extended.

Is there any better time of the year to apply?

The Arts Council has 250 exceptional talent and promise endorsements to give out each year, while there are a further 1000 places which are not allocated to any specific endorsing body. Of the 250 allocated to the Arts Council, 125 of these are available in 6 April to 30 September each year, with a further 125 available from 1 October until 5 April, in addition to any unused allocation from the first six month period. In the event that the Arts Council use all their endorsements, they have the option to draw on the 1000 unallocated endorsements shared between the Competent Bodies.

In previous years the limit has not been reached, and given the ability to draw on the 1000 unallocated places, this means that it is unlikely that it will make a difference when you apply. However, if the route becomes more popular, applicants may wish to consider applying at the start, rather than the end of the allocation periods.


If you have a specific date or event that you need to be in the UK for, it is important to work backwards from this to ensure that you give yourself sufficient time to make both stages of the application process. You should also think carefully about who your referees are likely to be and give some thought to their likely availability prior to starting the process. In the event that you will not have enough time to prepare the application, you can always submit your endorsement application and travel to the UK in a different category while this is pending with the Arts Council. For example, by entering with a Permitted Paid Engagement visa for short term events and then leaving the UK to make the longer term Tier 1 application within the permitted three months of obtaining the endorsement.

Contact our Immigration Barristers

If you would like further advice about making a Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) or (Exceptional Promise) application, contact our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or via our enquiry form.


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